The Creative Edge of Collecting: The “Nothing” of William Davies King
In 2008, UCSB Theater professor William Davies King confronted his lifelong practice of collecting things of little or no value in his book Collections of Nothing (U. of Chicago Press). Since then, he has transformed the idle collecting of ephemera into something enduring and creative—a story, a teaching, a work of art. He offers this exhibit to the creative imagination of its viewers, with a nod to those who are intrigued by the quirky things professors do.
Professor King’s course, Collectors and Collecting, has reached hundreds of UCSB students with the message that collecting can be meaningful, therapeutic, and beautiful, even if the objects are as trivial as the little squares that say “Place Stamp Here.” He also pays attention to the hunters of first editions and rare jazz albums, and those who pursue (like Andy Warhol) cookie jars.
You will find a collection in nearly every American household: some virtual (e.g. Pinterest), some conceptual (e.g. palindromes); some stashed in the basement, some proudly displayed. People tend to collect, and collecting works with a kind of value different from that seen in the marketplace.
What King has done is confront the social and psychological impulses to collect, and also the eye-opening possibilities of what one might assemble. This exhibit surveys the range of his efforts to think through the world by holding on to its least-prized fragments. In some cases, his collecting is mere accumulation. In others, he creates a special place—a frame—for how the world’s stuff can be appreciated. And in some cases, he transforms his collected material into a form of collage.
This exhibition has been curated by Jasmine Bushehry and Rhiannon Gonzales, two students in UCSB’s Museum Studies program.